by Patrick Bromley
With The Dark and the Wicked, which had its premiere at the 2020 Fantasia International Film Fesival, writer/director Bryan Bertino establishes himself as a modern master of horror. Like fellow master Mike Flanagan, Bertino is always interested in infusing humanity into his horror, using the genre as metaphor with which to tell deeply personal stories and crumbling relationships, family strife, or, as is the case here, caring for a sick relative. What The Strangers is to home invasion horror, this movie is to supernatural horror: an intense and relentless exercise that never ignores the characters or emotional elements in the telling of its story.
Of all the films I saw at this year's Fantasia Fest, The Dark and the Wicked is certainly one of the bleakest. It's almost punishingly grim, but that's by design. Like Relic from earlier this year, this is a film about the horror of watching a family member slip away, succumbing to illness while trapped inside a failing body and mind. There's just nothing happy about it. The supernatural horror that begins to creep in may be real, or it might just be a metaphorical manifestation of the nightmare of witnessing prolonged death. As in Bertino's last film, the underappreciated The Monster, it works both ways.